Man, have I been in some lousy treestands. From Alabama to Manitoba,
and numerous points in between, I?ve roasted, shivered, fidgeted, teetered,
swayed, gotten vertigo in, and spooked game from, treestands that were
uncomfortable, unstable, noisy, and generally ineffective. Just getting
into some of them required enough noise, activity, and sweat to greatly
reduce my chances of success. In more recent years I?ve grown wiser: If
I don?t like the looks of a stand, I refuse to get into it. Better far
to hunt from the ground than from an unsafe, uncomfortable, or just plain
the other hand, all those bad experiences serve to reinforce the pleasure
of hunting from a quality stand. Having spent countless hours in treestands
both good and bad, I?ve developed some definite ideas about what constitutes
a quality stand, and how to go about achieving it.
When I say ?quality? in this context, I?m not referring simply to the
design, materials, and workmanship of a given treestand. Though a quality
stand is solid, sturdy, and quiet, there are other criteria, some tangible
and some less so, that go into the making of a good stand.
Comfort, for instance, should not be underrated in a treestand. Discipline
and sacrifice are fine things, but if you?re truly comfortable in your
stand you will spend more time in it, fidget less, be more alert and better
prepared for the big moment, and enjoy hunting more.
Beyond being comfortable, a quality stand is one that can be climbed
into and out of quickly, quietly, and safely, with a minimum of sweat,
noise, and activity.
A quality stand includes a bow holder and a means of easy access to
grunt tubes, rattling sticks, water bottles, and other hunting paraphernalia
while keeping it out of the way.
A quality stand is one in which a hunter can sit down, stand up, and
turn 180 degrees in, easily and without risk.
A ?quality? stand is not to be confused with a perfect stand. I have
given up on my quest for the perfect treestand. Every treestand is a compromise
of some sort. For instance, I like big treestands. A stand you can walk
around in, eat lunch in, and sort your gear in, is more comfortable than
a tiny stand in which these activities are difficult or impossible. The
obvious compromise: All else being equal, big stands are much heavier,
more difficult to carry through the woods, and more difficult to hang.
Very small stands, on the other hand, are light, comparatively easy
to hang, and more mobile. For many hunters, those advantages are worth
the compromise of a comfort level that is in some cases right up there
with the middle seat on a long flight.
The perfect stand may not exist, but the best stand for a given individual
in a given situation is worth finding. Furthermore, there is a lot we can
do to increase the comfort level, safety, and effectiveness of any stand.
Select The Right Stand
Have you seen the latest crop of treestands? There are climbers that
level without requiring a trip back down the tree, and hang-ons that will
level on trees at 45-degree angles. There are stands featuring ergonomic
swivel seats with adjustable heights, and stands that slip into brackets
for easy hanging. (North Starr?s Boss Starr, Blackwater Creek?s Combo Stand,
and the New Millennium, from Hunting Solutions, come to mind. Braun Woodke?s
26? x 26? Easy Way comes with not only a bracket but a pulley system for
easy one-man installation). There are tripod and tower stands now designed
specifically for bowhunters. Double-wide stands are growing in popularity.
From the ?Why didn?t somebody think of this before?? category comes the
Treeslinger bracketing system?four nylon brackets affixed to several main
limbs or tree trunks with nylon ratchet straps. Slide two-by-sixes through
the brackets, then nail additional boards across these for a floor. The
result: a quick, easy, big, and safe home-built stand that doesn?t damage
trees, lasts for years, and can even be moved. (Hang two additional brackets
for a rail to hang camo fabric over, or for a bench and backrest.)
Treestands are getting better all the time, and hunters have never enjoyed
so many options, each of them best suited for specific situations. If your
treestands are less than solid, stable, quiet, comfortable, and easy to
install, it?s time to start shopping.
Installation & Access
The best stand is a terrible stand if it isn?t properly installed.
Putting up treestands is a chore, and the temptation is strong to get it
done quickly. You?ll be spending a lot of time up there, so resist the
inclination to rush. And when you think the job is done, spend some time
sitting in the stand. Chances are you?ll end up making some improvements
that will be a big advantage come opening day.
Ladder stands should be the standard of comparison when it comes to
quick, safe, and easy access. If you use steps or sticks, try to position
them for easy climbing. This is a safety issue, but beyond safety, you
want to get in and out of your stand without making noise and working up
a sweat. Steps should extend well above the platform of the stand, so that
getting into it and out of it is quick and effortless.
Any little girl can tell you that Barbie?s outfits aren?t complete
until they?re properly accessorized. The same is true for a treestand.
I?m still awaiting the treestand with a built-in bow holder. Seems obvious,
since most bow hunters consider a bow holder a necessity. (It?s not built
in, but Cabela?s does offer a free bow holder with its Tara Carbon treestand.)
A variety of small, inexpensive holders are available for bolting to the
platform of most stands. My own preference is for holders such as API?s
Bow Caddy, the Multi-Purpose EZ Hanger, and similar holders that attach
above the hunter?s head and hold the bow from an arm.
Most arm-style holders will also accommodate binoculars, range finders,
grunt tubes, etc. but belt-type accessory holders like the Hunter?s Specialties
Ecology treestand Accessory Belt or the Pine Ridge Hunt-N-Gear, are probably
better suited for this, since they keep gear handy but not hanging where
they can obstruct vision, shooting, or access to bows.
Ladder stands are among my favorite because of their easy, quiet access,
but most feature steel seat platforms that will suck the heat out of your
body in cold weather, and which are uncomfortable even in mild weather.
Inflatable cushions of the type favored by turkey hunters are a good fix
for this, but a better one is to strap or glue a layer of closed-cell foam
to the platform. (A carpet scrap can work, but these will get wet and stay
Leaning against a tree is seldom comfortable for more than a few minutes.
Most inflatable cushions and similar seats used by deer and turkey hunters
come with belts, which can be tied around a tree and used as a backrest.
Northeast Products offers seat pads and back cushions designed specifically
for the purpose, and evens markets a treestand foot pad called the Therm-a-Mat.
Some treestand manufacturers offer footrests as an option. Many hunters
find that these add significantly to their comfort over long hours in the
Though some studies suggest that urinating from a treestand does not
have a negative effect on deer hunting, scent-conscious hunters might want
to consider any of several products on the market designed to eliminate
that problem, including the Spare Bladder, sold in 4-packs for up to 12
uses, and Ol? Man?s Treestand Urinal.
Several products help conceal treestand hunters. These are useful when
the ideal location puts the hunter in an exposed position, or for any hunters
who tend to fidget?which is most of us, if we?re honest about it. Optional
blinds are available with some treestands. Products such as Branch Camo
Brackets, from High Racks, and the Pine Ridge Branch Strap, enable hunters
to strategically locate real or artificial branches around a stand for
optimum concealment without obstructing shooting lanes. Camo umbrellas
like the Buckwing Porta Roof and Ameristeps?s Ultimate Umbrellas fit around
trees over stands to make hunters less visible by keeping them in shade,
and provide some protection from precipitation as well.
One item I?ve found to be a necessity for some hang-on stands and ladder
stands is the ratchet strap. Ameristep, Keeper Outdoors, and Buckwing all
make ratchet straps specifically for use with treestands. Some stands just
won?t be stable without them, especially for smaller or oddly shaped tree
Tree steps have their advantages in many situations, but installing
them can be difficult. Several products can insulate and cushion the hands,
while using a lever effect to take a lot of the work and discomfort out
of the task, including Ameristep?s Tree Step Installer, and the Buck Screw
from Buck Screw, Inc.
Additional accessories that can make any treestand more comfortable,
safe, or effective include reels for retrieving bows and other equipment
from the ground, anti-slip tape for treestand steps, and cable locks for
locking stands. Northeast Products makes a Hunter?s Pillow. (Hey, if it
keeps you in the stand longer . . . .) Among my favorite relatively obscure
products are the Pine Ridge 2nd Shot Arrow Holder, which keeps an arrow
handy for a second shot without the need to remove it from a quiver, and
Ameristep?s Safety Glo Caps, glow-in-the-dark caps that fit over the ends
of treestand steps to facilitate climbing before dawn and after dusk.
Finally, though newer stands tend to rely less on T-screws and wing
nuts, I?ve learned the hard way to keep spare parts in my day pack for
my stands that make use of these. (Nothing like dropping a wing nut from
20 feet up as you move the seat of your climber stand to the tree-facing
position in preparation for climbing down.)
Compared to compound bows, the most sophisticated treestands are marvelously
simple contraptions. Good stands are not cheap, though, nor are they impervious
to the elements. Hanging them early and leaving them in place as long as
they might be used is a good idea, but it?s a mistake to leave them in
the elements longer than is necessary. Repeated soakings and exposure to
the sun and wind will wear and eventually destroy fabric seats and cushions,
and the most carefully coated and lubricated steel will eventually rust.
All that?s needed, apart from getting them indoors when the season is over,
is an occasional bit of white grease or similar lubricant at friction points,
and a little rust prevention.
Naval jelly and similar products can be used on rust spots. Apply it,
let it sit according to instructions, then wipe off. If that doesn?t eliminate
the rust, apply again, wait a little longer, and scrub with a stiff brush.
Paint over the spot with Rust-Oleum, which is available in flat camo colors
such as forest green, black, and gray. Naturally you?ll want to avoid lubricating
or painting your stands right before hunting season, when scent control
is an issue.
Considering the long hours most of us spend in treestands, along with
the crucial role they can play in our hunting enjoyment and success, it
only makes sense to pick the right stands, customize them for our own personal
needs and comfort, and give them the minimal amount of attention and care
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